Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A Young Woman as a Shepherdess ("Saskia as Flora")

Govert Flinck (Dutch, Cleve 1615–1660 Amsterdam)
Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Oval, 26 1/4 x 19 7/8 in. (66.7 x 50.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Lillian S. Timken, 1959
Accession Number:
Not on view
The painting was transferred from a wood panel to a canvas support in 1765, and its surface suffered in the process. In 1732, the work was listed in the estate inventory of Charles Jean Baptiste Fleuriau, comte de Morville, as one of "deux tetes de Rembrandt." Evidently the picture had been arbitrarily paired with a painting of a young woman by Rembrandt, probably his celebrated canvas A Girl at a Window of 1645 (Dulwich Picture Gallery, London). De Morville had been French ambassador at The Hague from 1718 until 1720 and was familiar with other important collectors of the day, including Valerius Rover in Delft and the Polish count Charles Henry d'Hoym in Paris. D'Hoym, a distinguished bibliophile as well as an amateur of paintings, apparently purchased this picture from de Morville's estate.

Rembrandt's name and the (for him) plausible date of 1633 swim in a suspicious pool of paint to the lower right. Until the picture was cleaned in 1995, the inscription, heavy overpainting, and varnish lent the work a surface and tonality that were considered typical of the master by nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century connoisseurs. However, Martin (1921) cited the work as an example of genuinely signed Rembrandts among which non-autograph pictures may be found. Scholars such as Bredius (1935), Valentiner (1931), and Bauch (1966) maintained the attribution to Rembrandt, but Gerson (1969) referred to the picture's problematic condition and concluded that "even on the strength of what can be seen of the original paint, an attribution to Rembrandt is unjustified. Perhaps a work by G. Flinck."

The attribution to Flinck is so convincing and so widely accepted that it is reasonable to catalogue the work under his name rather than under "Style of Rembrandt." Sumowski (1983–[94?]), in assigning it to Flinck, compares the Saskia as Shepherdess formerly in the Harrach collection, Vienna, which has long been recognized as a Flinck painted in the manner of Rembrandt during the late 1630s, and the Young Shepherdess in a Window (Musée du Louvre, Paris), which is signed by Flinck and dated 1641. The Harrach painting, Flinck's Woman with a Turban and Veil of about 1636 (Devonshire collection, Chatsworth), his Woman with Feathered Hat and Veil (formerly Galerie Fischer, Lucerne), and The Met's picture are similar not only in execution and in exotic figure types but also in their derivation from Rembrandt, the most obvious known model being his Bust of a Young Woman ("Saskia") of about 1633 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), which depicts a veiled and bejeweled beauty with a straight nose, level lips, dark brows, and a direct gaze. At least two other Rembrandtesque Flincks should be compared with the New York painting, the Girl in Arcadian Dress with a Dog (Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo) and the Shepherdess in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, which is signed and dated 1636 and a pendant to the signed Rembrandt(?) as a Shepherd in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Finally, another oval painting—also once attributed to Rembrandt and identified as Saskia—the Young Shepherdess as Flora (Musée du Louvre, Paris), is convincingly ascribed to Flinck by Foucart (1988) and is strongly reminiscent of The Met’s picture.

In all these works, it is not only the execution but also the palette, the drawing of the faces, and the way shadows are used to model features such as the nose (especially the underside) and lips that may be considered typical of Flinck in the second half of the 1630s. Even when a figure by Rembrandt served as model, Flinck introduced his own peculiar type of physiognomy: heads in the shape of elongated ovals with flattened sides, slight, sloping shoulders, and a short, curving, almost amphibious forearm and hand. He is also fond of fussy flowers, and fabrics that make up for their lack of substance with a display of shimmering detail.

The title employed by The Met for a century, Saskia as Flora, is doubly mistaken. Any resemblance to Rembrandt's wife derives from the influence on this work of paintings by Rembrandt that depict an idealized type somewhat reminiscent of Saskia (much as Rubens's second wife, Helena Fourment, is recalled by his Venuses and other female figures of the 1630s). It is true that the figure here, crowned with a wreath of flowers, is similar to the goddess in Rembrandt's Flora of 1634 (Hermitage, St. Petersburg), but her costume points to pastoral occupations of the kind practiced by ladies of the Dutch court. As noted by Louttit (1973), exotic veils and striped silks, despite their look of Oriental opulence rather than rustic simplicity, were part of the pastoral mode in the 1630s. The genre flourished not only in painting and prints but also in the theatre, poetry, and other forms of literature.

Roscam Abbing (1999) reconstructed the painting's eighteenth-century provenance. It follows from this valuable information and from Gersaint’s (1747) description of the picture that the original support must have been a rectangular panel. Thus, the composition would have more closely resembled that of Rembrandt's Bust of a Young Woman ("Saskia") in Amsterdam, which appears originally to have been rectangular.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Inscribed (lower right): Rembrandt f. / 1632
?Destouches, Paris (until 1794; his sale, Paris, March 21, 1794, no. 15, as "Une belle figure . . . ", by Rembrandt, for Fr 451 to Lebrun); J. H. Meyer de Stadelhofen, Hermance, Switzerland (in 1906); [Kraemer, Paris, in 1916]; [Wildenstein, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. William R. Timken, New York (by 1930–his d. 1949); Lillian S. Timken, New York (1949–d. 1959)
Leiden. Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal. "Fêtes de Rembrandt à Leyde," July 15–September 15, 1906, no. 53 (as "Saskia comme bergère," lent by Mr. Meyer von Stadelhofen, Château d'Hermance prés de Genève).

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters: Paintings by Rembrandt," May 2–31, 1930, no. 25 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Timken, New York).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 22.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 7, London, 1836, p. 168, no. 522, catalogues a portrait of a young lady by Rembrandt from the Destouches collection, possibly this picture.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. "Neuentdeckte Rembrandtbilder." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 17, no. 1 (1906), pp. 8–10, ill., as in the collection of Meyer von Stadelhofen; notes that the painting has suffered in being transferred from wood to canvas; calls it close to the portrait of Saskia in Lord Elgin's collection, and dates both works 1633; states that it is also close in manner and date to a Flora in the Schloss gallery, Paris, but that it antedates the compositions in the Buccleuch collection and the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Ed. W. R. Valentiner. 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1909, pp. 553, 571, ill. p. 138, dates it about 1634.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 6, London, 1916, pp. 136, 138, nos. 204, 206a, as in the possession of the dealer Krämer [sic for Kraemer] in Paris; calls it a Flora with the features of Saskia; notes that it was transferred from canvas to panel [sic for panel to canvas] in 1765; dates it about 1635 and tentatively identifies it with the picture in the Destouches sale of 1794.

W[ilhelm]. Martin. "Rembrandt-Rätsel, II." Kunstwanderer (September 1921), p. 30, states that it does not belong in Rembrandt's oeuvre.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. Die Holländische Kritik der jetzigen Rembrandt-Forschung. Stuttgart, 1922, p. 16, disagrees with Martin [see Ref. 1921], upholding the attribution to Rembrandt; notes that when he saw the picture in 1905 there was an inscription on the back stating that it had been transferred from wood to canvas in Paris in 1765.

W. R. Valentiner. "Important Rembrandts in American Collections." Art News 28 (April 26, 1930), ill. following p. 4, as in the Timken collection.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931, unpaginated, no. 32, pl. 32, judging by the pale grayish tone, dates it probably 1633 or 1634.

A[braham]. Bredius. Rembrandt Gemälde. Vienna, 1935, p. 6, no. 98, pl. 98.

Otto Benesch. Rembrandt, Werk und Forschung. Vienna, 1935, p. 14, calls it the earliest Flora by Rembrandt, close to the Saskia portrait of 1633 in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Emil Kieser. "Über Rembrandts Verhältnis zur Antike." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 10, no. 4/5 (1941/42), p. 155.

Kurt Bauch. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966, p. 14, pl. 256, as painted about 1632/33.

Paolo Lecaldano in L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt. Milan, 1969, ill. p. 131, includes it among works of doubtful attribution.

Horst Gerson, ed. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. By A[braham]. Bredius. 3rd ed. London, 1969, p. 555, no. 98, ill. p. 86, states that "an attribution to Rembrandt is unjustified," calling it "perhaps a work by G. Flinck".

M. Louttit. "The Romantic Dress of Saskia van Ulenborch: Its Pastoral and Theatrical Associations." Burlington Magazine 115 (May 1973), p. 325 n. 38.

J. Bolten and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Milan, 1977, p. 180, no. 167, ill., includes it among works by Rembrandt.

Alison McNeil Kettering. "Rembrandt's 'Flute Player': A Unique Treatment of Pastoral." Simiolus 9, no. 1 (1977), p. 19 n. 3, p. 22, fig. 5, as "Saskia as a Shepherdess"; notes the questioned attribution, and states that if it is by Flinck it must date from the later 1630s.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 5, Nachträge Ortsregister. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 3099, no. 2081, ill. p. 3212, attributes it to Govert Flinck and dates it about 1637–40.

Guido Jansen in The Impact of a Genius: Rembrandt, His Pupils and Followers in the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat., Groninger Museum, Groningen. Amsterdam, 1983, p. 156, under no. 33.

Alison McNeil Kettering. The Dutch Arcadia: Pastoral Art and its Audience in the Golden Age. Montclair, N.J., 1983, pp. 47, 61, 78–79, fig. 41, calls it the "first of the shepherdess portrayals outside Utrecht and the first of Rembrandt's pastoral compositions".

Jacques Foucart. Peintres rembranesques au Louvre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1988, p. 57.

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, [1995], pp. 15, 17, 70, 91–93, no. 22, ill. (color), as attributed to Govert Flinck; dates it about 1636–38.

Hubert von Sonnenburg. Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 1, "Paintings: Problems and Issues."New York, 1995, pp. 28, 61, 63, 65, fig. 83 (cleaned state), as attributed to Govert Flinck.

Michiel Roscam Abbing. Rembrant toont sijn Konst: Bijdragen over Rembrandt-documenten uit de periode 1648–1756. PhD diss., Universiteit van Amsterdam. Leiden, 1999, p. 170, fig. 45.

Thomas Ketelsen in Rembrandt, oder nicht? Exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle. Vol. 2, "Die Gemälde."Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2000, p. 56, under no. 8.

Stephanie S. Dickey. "Rembrandt and Saskia: Art, Commerce, and the Poetics of Portraiture." Rethinking Rembrandt. Ed. Alan Chong and Michael Zell. Boston, 2002, p. 38, fig. 16, as by Govert Flinck.

Lene Bøgh Rønberg in Rembrandt? The Master and His Workshop. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. [Copenhagen], 2006, p. 293 n. 8, under no. 38.

Inger Krog in Rembrandt? The Master and His Workshop. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. [Copenhagen], 2006, p. 291 n. 3, under no. 34, as by Flinck.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 203–7, no. 46, colorpl. 46; vol. 2, pp. 562, 708, calls it typical of Flinck in the second half of the 1630s.

Dagmar Hirschfelder. Tronie und Porträt in der niederländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 2008, pp. 191, 209, 406, no. 138, pl. 29.

Walter Liedtke. "Rembrandt Revelations at the Metropolitan Museum." Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Beiheft: Wissenschaft auf der Suche 51 (2009), p. 43 n. 1.

Esmée Quodbach in Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Lugt Collections. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2011, pp. 19, 25 n. 48.

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